PIKEVILLE — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul was the guest speaker Tuesday, during the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Town Hall forum in the East Kentucky Expo Center.
Taking the podium, Sen. Paul told those in attendance that the fiscal cliff battle of late December was only round one, and that another fiscal cliff battle is looming two months down the road over the debt ceiling.
Paul told those in attendance that he would only support a debt ceiling increase if there are significant measures put in place to curtail spending.
“The only way I will raise the debt ceiling is if there is some meaningful reform,” Paul said. He also said the deficit has continued to grow because of increased spending.
Paul said the talks will not be easy, telling those in attendance, “Your government is dysfunctional.”
Paul said he hopes to see spending cuts in major entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. He said every time politicians start looking at raising the retirement age, the American Association of Retired Persons lobbying interests bog down the system.
“The number one driver of spending is entitlements — Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.”
Paul was asked by one of those in attendance about his beliefs about industrial hemp. Paul said the legalization of industrial hemp continues to face opposition from law enforcement, because the plant looks like marijuana. Paul said he sees no reason why farmers couldn’t apply for a permit, and have their fields geocached so that they could be inspected to prevent growers from illegally growing marijuana.
“Its legal in almost every other civilized nation,” said Paul. “So what we’re doing is basically saying, we can’t grow something which we used to be very good at.”
Paul said there is a bill pushing the legalization of industrial hemp that he is pushing in the Senate.
Paul took time to answer Times questions about how the current war on drugs is bankrupting county governments who are obligated to jail and care for drug offenders.
Paul said that he believes nonviolent drug offenders should be getting counselling and not jail time. “I’d like to make sure we have plenty of room for rapists, murderers and thieves, and people committing violent crimes, and leave room for them. But people who make a mistake in judgement, I think they ought to get a second chance.”
Following his stop in Pikeville, Paul made his way to Hazard for a taping of WYMT’s “Issues and Answers.”